Day 65: Work in progress—Profilia: Rosemary Mahoney

Another profile on the shortlist for inclusion in Profilia, the anthology of profiles what I will be publishing later this year. This time, writer Rosemary Mahoney, from 1992 on the appearance of her fine travel memoir of Ireland, Whoredom in Kimmage.

One of her more memorable Dublin experiences began in a women's bathroom at Trinity College, where she spent 20 minutes perched on a toilet, copying down a remarkable debate on lesbianism that had been scrawled, partly in eyeliner, on the stall. Included was a phone number, and later Mahoney dialed it. The number was for a lesbian hotline, which alerted her to J.J. Smythe's, one of Dublin's two lesbian pubs.

One night, Mahoney started to go there. She lost her nerve on the threshold and didn't enter, but on another night, she worked up the courage to walk in. What happened next is told in one of the funniest and most affecting chapters in Kimmage.

Her first stab at conversation goes like this:

"So what do you girls do?"

"Work in a prison."

"Prison! Nice!"

She then talks for a while with a gay woman named Freddy, who seems like one of the loneliest people in Ireland. Later that night, at closing time, Freddy says plaintively, "Can I ask you something, Rose? If you saw me again sometime, would you talk to me?"

It is Freddy who asks the question Mahoney has been dreading. "You're gay yourself, Rose?" Unsure what to say but afraid of appearing to be in the pub as a mere voyeur, Mahoney lies and says yes. Later, asked by someone else if she is bisexual, she says yes to that too. Before the night is over, she finds herself pulled onto the dance floor by a woman named Nora; as their slow-dance clinch becomes ever more intimate, Mahoney chastises herself: You deserve this.